In this week’s haftarah portion we read the beginnings of the famous Samson. The man of miraculous strength who single-handedly took on Philistine troops. The man who, by the strength of his arms, pulled a building to collapse in upon itself. This is Samson. (And for some bizarre reason, despite the violence and sensual content, is still a Sunday School favorite.)
There is an important detail that most of us are familiar with in the story. Samson’s strength is actually not his own. In fact, Samson only has strength when his hair remains uncut. This was part of his Nazirite vow, a vow in which Samson was dedicated to the Lord and had to remain holy by abstaining from cutting his hair, coming in contact with any carcass, and anything produced by grapes. So Samson’s strength was something that was completely from God. Without God and his vow to God, Samson was an ordinary man with no significant ability of his own. In fact, just the fact that Samson was alive at all was completely by the strength of God. In this week’s portion, we read about the interaction between an Angel of the Lord and Samson’s parents.
And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.’ (Judges 13:3-5 NKJV)
What a story! God takes a barren woman and gives her a child who will be for the deliverance of all of Israel. Where have I read that before? Oh right, EVERYWHERE! The scriptures are filled with miraculous birth stories! Sarah with Isaac, Rebecca with her twins, Rachel with Joseph, Samson, Hannah with Samuel, and of course, Mary with Yeshua (Jesus). All of these births have some elements in common. First, they show a child being born by the blessing of God who couldn’t have been born otherwise. Second, these children born all had incredible significance in the life of God’s people and carried strength and anointing that only could have come from God.
Isn’t this what the gospel is all about? When left to our own doings, we usually “birth” things that aren’t so great. Deliverance and salvation by our own strength and devices fails time and time again. One only needs to briefly study the governments, nations, and empires we have created over world history to see that when mankind attempts to bring salvation for himself, it is almost always a failure. However, when it is God’s strength, His doing, His “birthing” so to speak, there can be healing, deliverance, and salvation.
This is something that is both mind-blowing and revolutionary about the gospel of Christ. When Judaism was expecting and wanting a Messiah who would come with power and strength to overthrow the Romans, Christ showed that the true strength and power of God is made manifest in human weakness and suffering. Yeshua showed us that God’s victory does not come through military power, but in humble submission. That the Kingdom of God doesn’t come by man’s ability to overthrow governments, but in God’s incredible ability to overcome the wickedness in our hearts. God’s incredible power is made known when it is through His ability and not our own.
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NKJV)